How To Install A Solar Panel On Your Motorhome Or Camper Van?

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Are you about to install a solar panel on your van? Or are you going to buy a solar panel for a motorhome and are looking into its installation?

No problem. Solar Panels Tasmania will explain all the steps to install your solar panel for your motorhome and have a self-sufficient installation in a few lines!

During your travels, every day you need to consume energy for your electrical appliances: lights, water pump, refrigerator, mobile phone… It is now possible to be autonomous without stopping at a campsite or village to recharge your auxiliary battery in the evening.

In recent years, solar panels have become essential equipment in motorhomes and vans. Their ever-increasing efficiency and increasingly affordable price make them an electrical accessory now within reach of everyone. Solar panel kits with regulators also allow for quick installation without any questions asked!

In this blog, we explain :

  • How to install a rigid or flexible solar panel?
  • Series or parallel connection to add a panel to your installation
  • Sizing your regulator

Before starting, here is a brief theoretical reminder of how a solar panel works…

Solar panels for motor homes

Photovoltaic or solar panel for motorhomes: how does it work?

Solar electricity is a technology that transforms the sun’s light rays (UV rays) into electricity. A solar panel is therefore made up of photovoltaic cells that generate an electric current to recharge our auxiliary batteries!

The yields of solar panels have increased considerably over the last ten years, and their production is now far from negligible. It is becoming easy to cover a 12V electrical consumption in a van or motor home!

To learn more about the size of solar panels, check out our “How Big Are Solar Panels” blog.

When does a solar panel produce energy?

To produce electricity, a solar panel must be exposed to the sun. So far, nothing unusual! However, a few conditions need to be met to get the most out of this production. For maximum yield, the solar panel must be exposed to the sun, with the sun at its highest level. The weather must be clear and free of clouds because the slightest cloudy spell can drastically reduce the voltage and, therefore, your electricity production. Also, the solar panel must not be shaded, even partially. So be careful not to park your van under a tree and not to install the panel under a roof rack.

Installing a solar panel

A rigid panel:

The first step is to attach your panel to the vehicle’s roof. For this, the panel’s surface must be sanded down and degreased thoroughly with acetone. Then glue the solar panel with a suitable sealant, and Sika 221 will do the trick. Rigid panels will be glued under the angles.

For a flexible panel:

For flexible panels, there is no need to empty a mastic cartridge to fix the panel! For gluing, make “dots” at the corners (about 10 mm high) and in the middle of the panel. These dots will absorb the vehicle’s vibrations and the panel’s expansion during hot weather.

Next, connect the cables from the regulator to the battery and then the regulator to the panel, ensuring that the polarity is correct. And that’s it! Remember to install fuses (one before and one after the charge regulator).

If you have yet to opt for the solar kit and need to choose your PWM or MPPT regulator for your autonomous motor home installation, discover our advice in our file on How to choose your motor home solar panel and its regulator! 

I am installing a solar panel on a motorhome or van; what happens if I need to add a solar panel?

You can add one or more solar panels for two reasons:

  • To increase the power of your park to gain autonomy
  • To divide up the array for reasons of space.

For example, if you want to install 100 W but do not have enough space, you can choose to install 2 x 50 W. When you connect several panels, you can make two types of connections:

Connection in series

In series, the + and – of the panels are connected. By doing this, the voltages are added together, and the current does not change. Care must be taken to install a solar regulator downstream that can accept this input voltage. This type of arrangement is particularly suitable for panels that are different. In the case of partial shading, the production will be strongly reduced but less than with a parallel connection.

Series connection of solar panels

Parallel connection

In this type of connection, the – and + of the panels are connected employing a Y MC4 connector. The current is added together, and the voltage remains as before. It is essential to install two strictly identical photovoltaic panels for this installation. The advantage is that the voltage does not rise, so it is not necessarily necessary to choose a regulator with a higher input voltage. Please note that if one of the panels is partially shaded, the entire production will tend to drop.

Parallel connection of solar panels

The MPPT regulator

If you have chosen an MPPT regulator for your installation, it must be correctly sized. There are two things to consider when doing this:

Input voltage in V (volt)

The input voltage can vary from 18 V to 150 V or much more! To do this, refer to the nominal voltage of your panel, and if they are in series, add it up, easy!

Example: You have two panels of 100W connected in series with a nominal voltage of 23 V each. The solar park will therefore offer 46 V output, and you will need a regulator accepting a minimum of 46 V input.

Output current in A (ampere)

Again, nothing complicated! This is the output current that the regulator can deliver to the battery. Divide your solar array’s power by the charging voltage of the battery array to obtain a current value.

Example: You have a 200 W solar panel for a 12V battery of 130 Ah. The battery charges at about 14.4V. Therefore, 200W / 14.4 V = 13.8 A. You will need a regulator that can output 13.8 amps.

You are now ready to install your solar panel on your van or motor home and be self-sufficient during your excursions!

If you’re interested in purchasing or installing solar panels in Tasmania, Solar Panels Tasmania has you covered! Feel free to contact us and get your free quote today.


John Williams Solar Panel Expert Tasmania On A Roof

John Williams is a solar panel expert with 15+ years of experience, providing customized solutions and promoting clean energy in Tasmania. He has a deep understanding of technical and commercial aspects, a proven track record and stay updated with industry trends and technologies. John also holds a Clean Energy Council accreditation.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Renewable Energy from the University of Tasmania


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